Final Portfolio and Reflection Letter

Archive of work completed by Anirudh Seshadri in ENGRD101 at Emory University Spring Semester 2022.

This course has been by far the most unique English/Writing course I have taken. I of course have analyzed graphic novels and comics related to similar topics but was never taught the tools to comprehend anything more than the speech bubbles coming out of the characters’ mouths. This class showed me that visuals are just as important as the words, that the gutter between panels tell a story, and that the secret language of comics lies, not in what is being said, but what isn’t. This class also confirmed a long-held belief I held about my own strengths and weaknesses as a student.

I always knew myself to be a far greater orator than writer. I could see it in my High School writing classes where my grades on written assignments were overshadowed by my oral presentations. I never knew why this was the case. It may have been my media consumption over the course of my childhood or the perceived failure of my English teachers till that point. Whatever the case, this was a trend I had noticed. The ENGRD101 class gave me the opportunity to see this firsthand in the assignments we did throughout the semester.

But knowing I could speak better than I wrote does not say anything about my growth as a writer. Rather this realization helped me directly accomplish the class’s learning outcomes pertaining to rhetorical composition, critical thinking, writing as a process, and visual thinking, and by accomplishing these outcomes, I was able to fulfill my larger goal of effectively communicating my ideas.

Rhetorical composition involves a holistic understanding of the audience, writing conventions and development of a piece of literature to best communicate an author’s message. My ideas were always sound and understandable but putting those thoughts to paper was a difficult task for me. I could think of a hundred great rhetorical situations to engage with but if I forgot them before I could write them, then there was no point. This is where utilizing my strength in speech came out. I would record myself say these ideas out loud and then listen back and identify the strongest points in my argument. I now had a blueprint for my essay in the form of this recording that I could go back to in case I forgot the line of reasoning I wanted to follow.

Like rhetorical composition, critical thinking and reading resulting in writing necessitates the ability to formulate original ideas and critiques of pieces of literature. If you are unable to put to paper these ideas that are constantly flowing in and out of your head, then you will fail to execute on this outcome. As stated above, by recording myself talk out loud, I was able to pick and choose the lines of argumentation that were the most coherent.

A comparison between my old writing process and new writing process reveals the great strides I made in my writing as a whole. Whereas before I was stuck on the first page of an essay trying to remember that one good idea I had in class, I had now flipped that on its head by using these 5-minute recordings. The advantages were the incorporation of my ‘speaking’ vocabulary, grammar and tone. For example, in my Literacy Narrative Part 2 I state, “I would get stuck on new words, and literary ideas like ‘theme’ and ‘juxtaposition’ were thrown around as if we had been accustomed to them for years. The point I make is that my difficulties analyzing novel pieces of literature began on that summer, a problem that would stick with me for 9 years.” I want to point to the ending of the first sentence and beginning of the second where I say “[…] them for years. The point I make […].” It is evident here that the tone implied by me saying “[t]he point I make,” is a reiterative phrase, one where I am trying to, in layman terms, tie everything together into an easy to understand summarizing point. This is a common pattern in my speech and a product of listening to myself talk and emulating that same persuasive and iterative tone.

The Halfa Kucha assignment could be categorized as a “visual thinking” assignment with the use of minimal text and mostly images to convey messages. It was a hallmark example of me fully realizing my strength in saying my arguments out loud as opposed to writing them down. The process of making my presentation proved to be magnitudes easier than writing an essay. I started out the same way, recording myself talk about the different books we had read and what kind messages related to trauma and healing were these books demonstrating. I listened to the recording multiple times until I found a solid connection for an argument between Stitches and Sabrina. Now instead of writing out an entire essay, hopping between different pieces of evidence and connective points, trying to incorporate tone, vocabulary and so on, I just had to make slides with pictures on them. Everything I needed to say was already said in the recording. I had finished my presentation before even starting it.

The digital citizenship learning outcome ties everything together. I needed a place to display my essays, Sunday sketches, and reflection posts; a place that highlighted my growth as a writer and the evolution of my argumentation skills this semester. This place was my WordPress site where I consistently used, and learned of, digital skills. Independently, awareness of things such as copyright laws and proper citation were ingrained through the many sketch assignments we did (i.e. ‘Cooling down at the beach’ and ‘Indian Jones’).

When engaging with both rhetorical composition and critical thinking, the use of speech to help formulate my ideas greatly benefited my communication of said ideas. Instead of remembering then forgetting ideas as I wrote and creating an inconsistent argument, I was able to precisely communicate my argument without extraneous tangents and holes. Writing as a process became more streamlined and helped my writing becoming clearer through ‘easier to understand’ grammar and tone when I incorporated the recording of my 5 or so minute talks, however the larger takeaway from those was that I was able to take the persuasive tone and language of my voice and incorporate that into my writing, thus making it clearer and coherent. Visual thinking was yet again an amalgamation of all the previously stated points of how the change in vocabulary, tone, sentence structure and so on were synthesized to make a compelling argument (Stitches and Sabrina); and digital citizenship, as stated before, tied everything together.

The commonality in how I used my strength of oration to accomplish the five learning outcomes is that they all helped me achieve my goal of becoming a better communicator.

My strength as a speaker and how it relates to more effective communication can be applied in many situations. This semester I utilized this process for my scientific talk. It required an explanation of complex topics like cellular and molecular pathways, genetic editing tools, and lab techniques that not many people know of. I felt I was able to effectively communicate these concepts through the use of the process I perfected during this ENGRD101 class. This is simply one example of how I will use my skills to get my ideas through to people.